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Free advocacy training scheduled for June 10-11

Updated: Jun 5, 2022

Mike Veny is a world renown speaker who has overcome setbacks in mental health to provide support for emotional wellness. He will be the keynote speaker for the upcoming Southeast Region Youth Expedition being held in Poteau.

Friday, June 3, 2022 - The Pervasive Parenting Center (PPC) is partnering with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), Developmental Disabilities Council of Oklahoma (DDCO), Carl Albert State College, Choctaw Nation, and the Oklahoma Family Network (OFN) to provide a two-day advocacy training in eastern Oklahoma. The event is open and free to everyone, and will target youth with disabilities as well as their families. It will also include nationally-renowned keynote speaker Mike Veny.

The two-day event is designed to focus on young adults with disabilities and/or a mental health diagnosis, but includes something for the whole family. The first day will be a Youth Expedition to help young adults learn self-advocacy skills. The second day will include more training for the youth, as well as additional training and information for parents and professionals working with youth with disabilities. There will also be a Sibshop for siblings of children with disabilities.

On Friday, June 10, these agencies will present the inaugural Southeast Region Youth Expedition. This day will begin with breakfast and a check-in from 8-9 a.m., and will focus on young adults ages 14 and up. The rest of the day will be filled with trainings, games, crafts, and fun to help with self-advocacy. The Choctaw Nation will present an Art Therapy session. This includes learning about job skills, social skills, leadership skills, and coping skills. The day will finish with a dance for the participants.

On Saturday, June 11, the organizations will provide the Southeast Region Youth Advocacy Day. This will include trainings and sessions to help area families. Included will be a presentation on available resources, both locally and state-wide, provided by OFN. In addition, there will be vendors from local and state organizations throughout the day. There will be an IEP training provided by the Pervasive Parenting Center. The youth will work on self-advocacy skills including “Telling Your Story”, provided by OFN.

Sibshop is a national program created as part of the Sibling Support Project. It is designed to help children cope with the stress of having a sibling with a disability, and is open to children ages 6-14. The children participate in games, crafts, and other activities throughout the day.

Lunch will be provided both days for participants.

On the afternoon of June 11, best-selling author, drummer, and mental health advocate Mike Veny will be the keynote speaker. Veny, a self-advocate, is a compelling speaker who entertains while educating the audience around improving wellness. He does this by telling his story of being hospitalized as a child, expelled from three schools, attempted suicide, and was medicated in efforts to reduce his emotional instability and behavior outbursts. This portion is open to anyone interested, and will begin at 1 p.m.

“This is the first of what we hope will be many of our Youth Expeditions in this region,” Said Isela Perez, senior Systems of Care program manager for Youth, Family, and Community Services with the ODMHSAS. “None of this would be possible without the community readiness and the partnerships that have come together to coordinate this event.”

Kodey Toney, director of the Pervasive Parenting Center added, “I’m excited to have such a great program available for the families in eastern Oklahoma. To have an event and speakers of this quality in our area of the state is rare, and we are honored to be able to partner with such great organizations to make this happen. The best part is that it is free and open to anyone.”

Finding support for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities and a mental health concern is not easy and finding opportunities for youth leadership among this group has not been available in rural areas like LeFlore County up until now,” added Joni Bruce, executive director of OFN. “I am delighted that young adults in the LeFlore County area and their parents and caregivers will have a chance to do both! Oklahoma Family Network is grateful for the Pervasive Parenting Center and the Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and for their leadership in bringing such great speakers like Mike Veny to LeFlore county, and the myriad of training and resources that will be included over this two-day event!”

The event will be held on the campus of Carl Albert State College in Poteau.

For more information contact us at 918-647-1255, or email

Lindsie Dyer, Staff Writer

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